This project was started a long time ago….
December 2011, in fact.
I’d wanted to build a Hunter, for ages but I didn’t want it to be a primmy bodge. From the start, it was going to be mostly sculpted, from 3-view plans, with all of the major airframe parts represented by just a few complex components. As a result, the airframe only required 6 prims.
The fuselage, wings, intake & canopy/spine were all created in Wings3D (free download – see links page). When the individual parts were finished, I merged them into a single overall assembly within Wings3D, so I could be sure that everything would fit together properly, before uploading to SecondLife.
Landing gear & tailplane were done with Sculptcrafter - although I went back and made a fresh tailplane sculpt with Wings3D, because of Sculptcrafter’s ubiquitous LOD issues.
Although I was going to make the tail fin as a sculpt (shown in pic above), it proved impossible to texture neatly, with the level of detail I wanted, so I opted for a flat box prim & alpha outline. I think the end result is reasonable, even on close inspection.
Wing texturing was a bit of a nightmare, because of the complicated shape. This is where a mesh model would’ve been preferable – the UV unwrapping would’ve made texturing a doddle. It was because of the disappointing wing texture problems, that I ended up shelving the project for a year.
My first flying prototype, was painted in red/white trainer scheme and generated a lot of interest from British enthusiasts. However, after months of seeing that same colourscheme, I eventually got tired of it, so decided I wouldn’t release the Hunter until I could provide an alternate colour scheme.
I spent an additional couple of weeks, painting a tidy RAF camouflage version, to include in the box. I’m glad I invested the extra time, because I think it makes a smart contrast to the trainer. Plus, it conveniently separates the combat and non-combat versions – with combat aircraft in camo paint and non-combat version in trainer colours.
I would’ve preferred a single UV map of the entire aircraft. Instead, I had to split it into about 8 individual uploads. I might still re-visit those and try to combine them – perhaps merge into two 1024×1024 textures, each containing four 512 images.
My old flight scripts have always annoyed me, because of the unwanted floatiness. In terms of handling, I was happy with agility and manoeuverability – but the floatiness was a perpetual bugbear.
That was something I never found the reason for… until now. I pulled the script apart, line by line, until I finally isolated the offending code. It was a single line in the initial setup - an innocent-looking parameter, where a simple zero was causing the problem. After I’d fixed that, it opened up a lot of possibilities for realism – lift, gravity, thrust, drag, etc.
As a bonus, I spotted a second line of code, which was the cause of an uncommanded climb. This had previously required precise thrust compensation, for every aircraft. Now, also fixed and it naturally flies straight and true.
As a consequence of the floaty fix, the Hunter can be landed in a much more realistic fashion – with a positive descent and tidy flare on touchdown. No more aiming towards the runway, like a lawn dart !
I’ve put a lot of effort into improving the HUD instruments (all painted from scratch), which now look much more authentic. They can be minimised, to improve visibility or reduce lag. The dial scripts enter sleep mode, when hidden.
Because there were so many functions to incorporate into the HUD (29 buttons) it took some juggling, to decide on a practical user interface. Some of the multi-select options (camera and smoke) are now on popup menus – ie one button reveals four more. Functions are logically grouped into sections – general commands, flight modes, combat switches, aux functions.
In addition (this was a biggie), I replaced all the individual button scripts, with just one overall control script. This has saved a huge amount of memory and the single (complex) script performs a whole bunch of clever stuff.
The only extra scripts, are related to instrument dials, which needed to be separate – but can be put to sleep, without affecting the control buttons.
Sounds were produced using Audacity (free sound editor – see links page). Judging by the complimentary comments I’ve had back, regarding the engine noises, the editing time was well-spent.
Thanks to an unprecedented level of (call me paranoid) flight testing, I launched a product with almost zero bugs. There was a solitary glitch, which I spotted myself, when I crashed one day…
If pilot becomes separated from aircraft on a bad crossing etc, the aircraft shuts everything down, then generates a teleport link, back to its location. The problem was, this beacon couldn’t handle region names containing spaces. When I teleported, it sent me to “Blake” instead of “Blake Sea – Indian”. Luckily, I spotted it early and was able to patch it very quickly.
If you have ever flown my aircraft before, the Hunter might surprise you. It is worth reading the manual, so you know what to expect, before you try landing it. A few people have been caught out by reducing throttle as they would in my old aircraft – and finding themselves losing height rapidly.
The repertoire of possible aerobatics manoeuvers, is extensive – and I’m thinking of running a few inworld flight tutorials, to show owners what it can really do. Combinations of control switching and disabling the usual assists, makes it a formidable flying machine.
Pack includes 2 flyable aircraft (red/white trainer & RAF camo), 2 unscripted static aircraft, helmet, HUD, ejection seat, drogue chute & comprehensive instructions. At time of writing (18 April 2014), only the fullsize aircraft is provided. However, I will be working on a Tiny version when my schedule allows it.
As usual, there’s a flyable demo available at the shop – (orange rezzer box at East end of runway). Sit in aircraft and say ‘hud’ if you wish to use one, or just fly using standard chat commands.